Joyce Kamwana got lucky. The mother of two went to the doctor after running a fever, thinking she had malaria. After running tests, the doctor told Kamwana she was HIV-positive. That was 1988, three years after the first case of HIV/AIDS was diagnosed in the East African nation of Malawi.
Kamwana had contracted the disease from her husband, Dan, who would die from AIDS three years later. Their daughter, Sharon, tested negative for the virus. But their newborn, Tracy, tested positive. After Kamwana finished breastfeeding, more tests were run, and Tracy tested HIV-free. Both girls eventually went to college and were able to donate blood without risk.
"It's quite a relief to say I have only myself to think about now," Kamwana said. "I'm very proud of them. Lord, thank you. You've done a very good job."
Not every mother living with HIV is as fortunate. Globally, about 1,000 HIV-positive children are born each day. In many developing nations, contracting HIV from one's mother is a death sentence: 50 percent of children who get the disease from their mothers die before their second birthday. Without drug treatment, an HIV-positive pregnant woman has a one in three chance of infecting her child during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding.
Ninety-one percent of children born with HIV live in African nations with very high birth and infant mortality rates. Young children in Uganda, for example, die by the tens of thousands, as the nation has one of the world's highest birth, infant mortality, and HIV infection rates, not to mention deaths from tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases (see "Standing in the (AIDS) Gap,").
Pregnant women with HIV need antiretroviral drugs the most. A 2000 Johns Hopkins University study ...